Sunday, March 16, 2014

Believing..Or Setting One's Heart On?


The opening verse of Genesis 12 relates God's directive to Abram: "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you…" No itinerary. No map. No GPS. No assurances beyond the journey. Imagine if you were asked to do that!

The passage from John 3:1-17 centers on Nicodemus, "a leader of the Jews." He comes to Jesus in the dark of night, full of questions which bother him: "How can anyone be born [from above] after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?…How can these things be?"

You and I have probably heard sermons on these texts year after year urging us on, in some form, to believe, trust, have faith. At other times we've heard words bandied about: beliefs, tenets, the Magisterium, dogmas, teachings. That strikes many people as terribly impersonal. Some, experiencing difficulty in understanding what's meant by all that, no longer "buy" it, and have simply stopped saying the words of "The Creed", whether the form is Apostles', Nicene, or Athanasian! Not a few folks admit to being outright skeptics about it all. It appears to them that the Church has made it all so hard, so complicated, so ethereal.

One of my favorite books through the years since the '80's is James Adams' book, So You Think You're Not Religious?, written for modern skeptics. What grabbed me when I read it was the description of faith which he suggests. Adams tells of an incident which he witnessed at Oxford University, where Robert Morgan was giving a series of lectures on Paul's Epistles. Morgan came to the text in Romans 10:9 where Paul says: "...if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." "Then", Adams recounts, "he looked up and said, 'Believe in your heart. That is the only kind of believing that matters. As you probably know the Latin word 'credo', from which we get our word 'creed', is usually translated 'believe', but it means literally 'to set the heart'." Adams notes that this stunned him, for it suddenly solved for him how a skeptical person might, with integrity, pray the Nicene Creed. "'Credo'...'I believe in', really means 'I set my heart'. It does not mean 'I set my head'."

Not only Abram and Nicodemus, but you and I too are constantly invited to move on, to journey beyond the familiar, to leave our "sure bets" behind, to be "born from above". In short, we're invited to "set our heart on" Jesus the Christ, whom the living God has sent, purely out of love for us, to show us how to do that.

1 comment:

John-Julian Swanson, OJN said...

Oh, Father, that is simply too wonderful for words! I've never heard it—and it releases me (and others) from a kind of contradictory intellectual bondage.
How grateful I am to you for bringing us Morgan's words.